NRC COVID-19 programs


The Government of Canada is taking strong and quick action to protect our economy, and the health and safety of all Canadians during this global outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

We are working with our partners as part of the collective effort to help find solutions to the COVID-19 outbreak:

1. The COVID-19 Challenges Procurement Program

Purpose: This program posts challenges seeking near-to-market solutions from small and medium-sized businesses (fewer than 500 staff) that need financial support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) to refine and sell their product or solution to meet a COVID-19 related need.

NRC IRAP works with roughly 8,000 small and medium-sized businesses every year through its cross-Canada network of 255 industrial technology advisors and provides over $300 million in support to more than 3,000 technology development projects annually

Through this initiative, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada (HC) established challenges corresponding to the needs of health providers to deal with COVID-19

NRC IRAP is working with Innovative Solutions Canada to launch calls for proposals to address challenges, fund development of solutions, and buy successful products and services needed to address COVID-19.

Together, NRC IRAP and Innovative Solutions Canada will:

  • post the PHAC and HC challenges (Innovative Solutions Canada)
  • award Phase 1 funding to successful small and medium-sized businesses to develop a proof of concept for their solution (NRC IRAP)
  • award Phase 2 funding to the firms with the best concepts so they can develop a working prototype (NRC IRAP)

The NRC, PHAC, HC or another federal department or agency will then be able to purchase the product for use against COVID-19.

Open challenges are available on Innovative Solutions Canada's website. These will continue as PHAC, HC, and health care providers request new topics.

2. The Pandemic Response Challenge Program

Purpose: This program is building teams to address challenges requiring further research and development for solutions to meet COVID-19 related needs. The NRC is building these teams by drawing on internal-to-government capacity, and researchers from academia and the private sector with relevant experience.

The NRC is receiving $15M to form dedicated teams to address challenges in the areas of greatest research and development (R&D) need in the fight against COVID-19. The NRC Pandemic Response Challenge Program will accelerate the development of diagnostics and medical countermeasures for a rapid front-line response to protect and treat Canadians. This national vehicle will convene the best Canadian and international researchers from government, academia, and small and medium-sized businesses to collectively accelerate R&D to address specific COVID-19 gaps and challenges as identified by Canadian health experts. The Pandemic Response Challenge Program is currently structured around 3 main research areas:

  • Rapid detection and diagnosis
  • Therapeutics and vaccine development and
  • Digital health.

Funding is available to help cover the costs of research for eligible recipients participating in the challenge teams. Over the coming weeks, we will post the specific R&D challenges, send information to registered researchers, and invite them to indicate the expertise and capabilities they can bring to a team.

3. Biomanufacturing capacity at Royalmount: NRC Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre

Purpose: This initiative will result in a Good Manufacturing Practices platform to develop and scale up COVID-19 Canadian vaccine and therapy candidates.

The NRC Biomanufacturing facility, located in the NRC's Royalmount Avenue building in Montréal, is used to develop and scale up processes to produce biological medicines and is managed by the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre. As part of its development capacity, the facility is equipped with pilot-scale bioreactors (200 L and 500 L), which will be operationally available to produce up to 100,000 doses of vaccine per month within 6 months once a vaccine suitable for front-line responders is available.

A $15 million investment will fund the certification of the facility for Good Manufacturing Practices compliance, and will enable production of material that will be used in humans, particularly for vaccines or therapeutics. This certification can also greatly increase the capacity for candidate vaccines or therapeutics to be quickly rolled out and clinically tested, particularly those originating from Canada. The work to refine and certify quality systems at the facility will include: bringing the existing facility to regulatory standards, installing equipment to expand capacity, and managing information.

Once certified, this facility will be able to accelerate the scale-up production and testing of various types of vaccine candidates in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak, including protein-based, viral vector-based, and antibody-based products.